[Frontiers in Bioscience 9, 1318-1332, May 1, 2004]
EVOLUTION OF ASSISTED PROTEIN FOLDING: THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE MAIN CHAPERONING SYSTEMS WITHIN THE PHYLOGENETIC DOMAIN ARCHAEA
Alberto J. L. Macario 1, 2, Mona Malz 1, 3, and Everly Conway de Macario 1, 2
1Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, Division of Molecular Medicine; and 2Department of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, The University at Albany (SUNY), Albany, New York, USA, 3 Current address: Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, 65321 Heidenrod, Germany
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Newly made proteins must achieve a functional shape, the native configuration, before they can play their physiological roles in the cell. Proteins must also travel to the locale (e.g., the mitochondrion) in the cell where their functions are required. In these processes of folding into the native configuration and translocation to the place of work, proteins may be assisted by molecules called molecular chaperones. Stressors can unfold (denature) proteins, and genetic defects can cause misfolding and, in addition, both abnormalities can lead to polypeptide aggregation. Chaperones play a role in assisting refolding of partially denatured or misfolded proteins, thus preventing aggregation. Clearly, molecular chaperones are key cell components under normal, physiological circumstances, as well as in potentially harmful situations resulting from environmental or inherited factors. Hence, molecular chaperones constitute attractive targets for a variety of efforts aiming at improving the cell's performance, particularly under stress, to prevent disease, or at least to slow down its progression and to contain the deleterious effects of stress. In our efforts in this direction, we have undertaken to investigate the chaperoning systems of cells belonging to the phylogenetic domain Archaea. The findings reported here pertain to the distribution of the molecular chaperone machine, the chaperonins, and the prefoldins, among archaea. The genes hsp70(dnaK), hsp40(dnaJ), and grpE encoding the components of the molecular chaperone machine were present only in some archeaeal species: this contrasts with bacteria and eucarya, which do have the genes with no known exception. The group I, or bacterial, chaperonin-genes groEL and groES occured in the genomes of Methanosarcina species but were not found in any of the other archaea whose genomes have been sequenced. While all the archaea studied had between one and three chaperonins of group II (thermosome subunits), Methanosarcina acetivorans was exceptional since it had five of these chaperonins. This is the largest number of group II chaperonins ever found in a prokaryote. Furthermore, two of the M. acetivorans chaperonins were different from, albeit related to, the other known archaeal and eucaryal chaperonins of group II. Prefoldins were found in all archaea examined. Overall, the results provide clues to the evolution of the chaperoning systems, which must have played a critical role in survival since life started. Also, the data suggest new avenues of research for elucidating the evolution of assisted protein folding and for uncovering roles and interactions not yet described for these molecules.